Harlan Coben enters his 30th year of authorship as a master of the plot-twist thriller, with such bestsellers as “Tell No One” and “The Stranger.” He’ll deliver some more thrills to local fans by appearing for a discussion and book-signing at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta on March 18, the day after the debut of his latest mystery, “The Boy from the Woods.”
The new novel, about a man who was found living feral and orphaned in the wild and who now goes in search of a missing girl, is one of Coben’s standalone thrillers. He’s had success in the series format, too, with the adventures of ex-basketball pro Myron Bolitar and his morally challenged pal Win Lockwood, and three young-adult thrillers starring Myron’s nephew.
European film and TV has been very Coben-friendly, especially in France, where “Tell No One” was made into an acclaimed 2006 film. Coben entered the filmmaking business himself as a writer and producer, creating the British mystery series “The Five” in 2016. Now he is adapting his works for international audiences on Netflix, where a British production of “The Stranger” debuted in January.
His local appearance is part of the year-round programming for the Book Festival of the MJCCA, a major event every November. The event is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the MJCCA at 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody. Tickets are $35 and include a copy of the book. (For more information, see atlantajcc.org/bookfestival.)
It wouldn’t be a Coben event without a plot twist – in this case, two bestselling novelists for the price of one. He will appear “in conversation” with Emily Giffin, a Buckhead resident and author of such hits as “Something Borrowed” and “All We Ever Wanted.”
The Reporter recently asked Coben about the appeal of suburban evil, the challenges of writing technothrillers, and more.
Q: Dark secrets behind suburban life is a theme in many of your books and seems to show up in the new one, too. What is that fascinates you about suburban life in that way?
A: The suburbs is the home of the so-called American Dream – a nice house, a picket fence, two cars, two-point-four kids, peace, security, etc. — but a dream is fragile. How far will you go to protect it? That interests me.
Q: You’re having a string of success with Netflix productions based on your books. How involved are you in those productions? Is it challenging to hand your written babies over to a different medium?
A: I love doing these adaptations with Netflix, including the most recent, “The Stranger.” If you think about it, I’ve chosen to spend most of my life alone in a room by myself. To get out of that room and collaborate with tons of talented people – cast, crew, writers – has been a wonderful change. I compare the book-writing to winning a tennis or golf championship. You celebrate alone. The TV adaptations are more like being captain of a team. We celebrate together. We rise and fall as one. Oh, and I’m very involved with the Netflix series. I really wouldn’t have it any other way.
Q: You use technology in a lot of your plots. When you’re writing that type of thriller, do you try to write in a way that will hold up in 10 years, or are you happy with it being a snapshot of the moment?
A: I write contemporary novels. They are a snapshot of that moment. That’s how it should be. That’s how it is, if you think about it, with almost every novel. What must be universal is in the emotion and themes – the humanity — not the trappings of time or locations.
Q: You seem to be back to writing standalone novels rather than series. Is there something drawing you in that standalone direction? Any plans to bring some of your favorite characters back in the series form?
A: Not really. Since 2000, I’ve written a Myron Bolitar novel every five or six years. My last Myron novel was “Home” in , so that’s about right. Will I write more Myron and Win books? That’s the plan. I never force it. I wait until the idea comes to me and then I’ll see whether it will work for the series or not.
Q: In your local book festival visit, you’ll be in conversation with Emily Giffin, one of our local star novelists. Do you know her or have opinions about her work?
A: I’m a huge Emily Giffin fan and – don’t be envious – I’ve already read an advanced copy of her upcoming release, “The Lies That Bind.” Ooh boy, is it great. I think it’s her best. Emily is also a wonderful friend and absolutely hilarious. It will be a fun event, I promise.